[editor’s note: Today I’d like to present the 3rd edition of our "guest blogger" series this week by writer Heidi Donahue.]
"We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success."
~ Henry David Thoreau
It’s hard to believe that it’s already 2014. Along with a new year comes a new chance to make things better-for myself and perhaps even for others. I’ve never really been good at the whole "New Year’s Resolution" thing, though. As funny as it may sound, I feel like resolutions put too much pressure on me.
A few of my best friends and I have an annual tradition of a year-end brunch, where we pick a restaurant, eat way too much food and talk about everything that has happened over the last year. One of us had a baby, one of us bought a house and one of us got engaged. (I’m the one that got engaged! )
So much has happened in just a year, and we’re all excited to see what 2014 will bring.
This brought up the discussion of goals and what we want to accomplish in the upcoming year.
For some, it was cutting their credit card debt in half, for others it was exercising more. We decided it was time to write these goals down. Why?
Setting your goals in stone (or, at least paper)
There are benefits to writing down your goals, rather than just saying them out loud and letting them blow into the wind. You’ll be able to clearly remember what goals you set for yourself and you’ll also find that it feels more "real" when you write them (or type them) down.
It’s obviously something psychological, but I’ve seen blogs and other articles about how it really works.
We started an email chain and each listed our goals for 2014.
My first goal is a bit of a cheat because I put "get married" as a goal and my wedding is in March, but that was one I knew I’d reach, and I wanted to ease into this whole goal-setting-and-sticking-to thing.
My second goal is to be able to run three miles nonstop. I’m great at Pilates, but I’m definitely not a runner-yet.
Third on my list of goals was to volunteer somewhere that assists animals find their forever homes. Anyone who knows me knows that I wish I had a house large enough to adopt every homeless animal in the world. If you think I’m joking, ask my mom why she changes the channel every time one of the ASPCA commercials comes on and I’m around.
Finally, I hope to save up enough money for a down payment on a home with my soon-to-be husband.
All of my goals seem to align with the top resolutions that people make at the beginning of each year.
Now, the question is, how am I going to reach them?...
Well, I’ve already started on my goals for 2014.
There’s an app for that.
For my goal of being able to run more (okay... okay, at all), I downloaded an app that acts as a "personal trainer" of sorts and (allegedly) takes you from a non-runner to being able to run a 5K race.
The treadmill always seems daunting to me, and I live near a park, so I’ll be heading there three times a week to get into shape.
In the end the computer doesn’t do the running... I do... so the app can only help so much... it’s up to me to actually lace up my shoes and get into shape.
If there’s a will, there’s a way.
I recently sent an email to a local dog rescue group to see if there is anything that I can do to assist them.
The catch is that, for the next few months, I’ll be super busy with wedding planning, so I’ll need to help from home after work and only during the week.
I thought this would really limit my ability to help out. However, I received a response from the Executive Director of Rescue Operations and she actually has something that I can do from home.
I’m thrilled, and can’t wait to get to work!
Every penny counts.
Bills need to be paid, so sometimes you’re not able to save as much as you’d like to from each paycheck.
Believe me, I get it!
However, I plan to start small and do whatever I can to get some extra cash into my savings account.
With credit cards paid off, it’s time to get serious about building my savings so that in the next year or two we can buy a home of our own.
I saw this very simple savings plan that people were posting about on Facebook, and I’m going to give it a try. This won’t be the only money I save, but I know I’ll have at least $1,400 by the end of the year, which isn’t a bad way to start.
What it really comes down to is choosing goals that aren’t so over-the-top that it’s easy to fail and give up.
The goals that I set for myself are all realistic and doable with a little bit of determination and discipline.
Because my friends and I shared our 2014 goals with one another, it’ll be nice to have people to cheer on my success with when I reach a goal.
I won’t be able to take homeless dogs into my home, but I’ll help an organization that works to find them loving homes.
I won’t be signing up for a marathon next year, but I’ll be able to run farther than I can now.
It’ll take more than one year for my future husband and I to save enough for a home... but once we start, we’ll be that much closer to making our dreams a reality.
Improving your life and yourself a little bit at a time is something we can all do, and definitely takes some of the pressure off.
Write down your realistic goals, figure out what steps you need to take to achieve them and work hard.
That’s an easy action plan, if I don’t say so myself.
Now, instead of calling these my "New Year’s Resolutions" I’ve decided to dub them my "2014 Goals." It has a nicer ring to it, don’t you think?
[Heidi is originally from San Diego, CA and is currently a professional writer and blogger for a local financial institution.]